Classic Cabinets, Modern Design

Discover the advantage custom wood cabinetry provides when facing complex design challenges!

By balancing period-appropriate architectural specifications with modern performance standards, and combining historic techniques and modern technologies, we break down how to tackle the toughest of challenges.

Learn why wood, one of our most valuable, renewable resources, is a key component to achieving seamless integration in to any project. Our designer’s perspective means that our classic cabinets can fit in any era home while having all the comforts of modern design.

Of course, with wood construction, comes wood waste. At Versatile Wood Products, we take resource preservation seriously. Check out our unique biomass boiler system by Portland firm, Wisewood Energy. The system is expected to conserve 11,600 therms of natural gas and 8,600 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. 

A Design Week Portland event.

Free Admission!

For Tickets



Wednesday, August 5th, 2020


Versatile Wood Products
2303 N. Randolph Ave

Case Study: University of Portland’s Dundon Berchtold Hall Entries

Teamwork and expertise made this project happen. Jeff Vasey (Mill Foreman), Pete Kmosko (Cabinetry and CNC Foreman), Curtis Nagel (Drafter), and Rex Vaccaro (Product Design Manager) collaborated for months.

Dundon-Berchtold Hall is the first new academic hall that University of Portland has opened on campus in over two decades, and Versatile Wood Products was thrilled to be a part of its completion. The intention behind the design was to create a space that was aesthetically similar to the historic buildings that are on campus and in the vicinity. A classic, traditional look was the goal, with stylistic references to the Collegiate Gothic style commonly seen in prestigious East coast universities.

Versatile designed and built six door pairs with sidelites and Gothic arched-top transoms, as well as two single doors with traditional rectangular transoms. This classic aesthetic calls for quarter sawn white oak. This species is historic, durable, and beautiful, but it takes a skillful eye to select layouts from this type of wood. Pieces were selected for harmony in both grain and color. The look of the finished product is determined when we first handle the rough lumber in the mill.

But the challenges didn’t end with lumber selection. Since Classic architectural elements are defined by their dimensionality, grand formal entrances like these call for multiple layers of trim. Large, chunky millwork profiles add depth and drama to the design and visually support the heavy detailed doors. Adding a Gothic arch to this formula made this a technical feat that we addressed with both traditional and modern methods. Accuracy was paramount in order to match up all of the curved pieces precisely, and for that task we looked to our CNC operator.

This detail from the shop drawings shows the final rendering of one of the elevations. All elements must align with each other while fitting the masonry opening precisely.

Before the pieces could be cut out, the wood blanks had to be assembled. Keeping in mind the color and grain harmony mentioned above, we also had to consider how the grain was going to be revealed on the round pieces. Quarter sawn grain patterns are revealed when wood is cut at a specific angle.

Our mill foreman had to consider how the grain would be revealed as the shapes emerged from the blanks, and with a curved piece, this is a more challenging process. Additionally, with the heavy wood and long expanses, the joints had to be robust and strong. This required compound miter glue-ups, where the face of the glue-up is angled to the shape of the final curved piece, while the meeting joints are also angled to increase glue surface. All of this planning and consideration is necessary before it ever hits the CNC platen. Once we were ready to start cutting the shapes, the CNC operator must determine the best plan of attack for the cuts—not only the direction, but the depth and speed of each pass. To lose a piece due to tear-out after all that work can be heartbreaking. The CNC is a high-tech tool but requires as much skill and thoughtfulness as any other woodworking instrument. 

This detail section shows the multiple parts used in the jamb and casing, which give the entry the imposing drama befitting this building. Note the triple laminated door construction, which provides extra stability for these oversize door slabs.

Versatile Wood Products partnered with Fortis Construction and Soderstrom Architects to bring this project to life. Our high-quality design and expert craftsmanship created these exceptional entries, which will grace the entrance of Dundon-Berchtold Hall for many decades to come.

Whiskey and Windows 2019

Wednesday, November 20th 4pm-7pm

Our signature whiskey and windows event is happening again! This time, with a workshop on storefronts: come learn about the anatomy of a storefront and experience handcrafted windows and whiskey like never before.

Admission is FREE! For tickets:

The Anatomy of a Storefront

Some may view a storefront as simply the entrance to a business, but at Versatile Wood Products, we see it differently. There are many questions to address, styles to choose from, and requirements to consider. A beautifully integrated storefront can be a complex project, but with the help of a strong design team, it needn’t be difficult. Here’s how we approach it.

Portland’s famous Pine Street Market is housed in the historic Carriage & Baggage Building, built in 1886. We designed entry systems that worked with the original arched masonry openings.

First, we determine the type of exposure this structure will be getting. Overhang and cardinal direction play a large part in the design strategy, including choosing your wood species. If the assembly will be taking a lot of heat from the sun, experiencing strong winds and rain, or facing heavy snow, that will help us to determine the best wood species to use. Douglas fir with standard grain is our most popular selection, and for many situations, it’s the perfect choice. When an even more robust species is called for, a tighter grain Douglas fir or sapele are our top choices. A southern-facing entrance, a less-than-generous overhang, or harsh weather exposure may call for special treatment. The experts at Versatile will guide you toward the best options for the unique needs of your storefront. 

Our product design manager Rex Vaccaro consults with the installation team at Cornelius Woodlark. Versatile’s experts collaborate with you to ensure great results.

One challenge that can arise when modernizing historic structures is creating ADA-compliant entrances. In buildings such as the Timberline Lodge and the Hollywood Theatre, innovative techniques (like burying wires or building concealers for electric closers) ensured that the original aesthetics were preserved while also integrating automatic door mechanisms needed for ADA accessibility. 

Timberline Lodge is a famous building that really takes a beating. Our ADA entryway is robust enough to withstand the elements, while ensuring ADA compliance. Accessibility matters!

Another important consideration is providing window and doorway systems that keep our clients and their customers comfortable year-round as the weather and temperatures shift. Precision, top-quality weather stripping and thresholds appropriate for your design will prevent air from traveling around windows or doors and ensure a well-regulated indoor environment.

After facing the elements for decades, historic buildings need to be repaired, restored, and renovated. There are many guidelines concerning the preservation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of historic buildings. With over 30 years of experience with historic renovation projects, including multiple structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Versatile is fluent in the unique requirements of historic restoration. For Versatile Wood Products, staying true to a building’s original aesthetics and honoring its past are a point of pride and what gives our work purpose.

Join us Wednesday, November 20th for our annual event, Whiskey & Windows and learn the anatomy of a storefront with a live presentation! RSVP

Why Historic Preservation Matters

Versatile Wood Products was proud to play a role in the restoration of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, including custom doors.

1. Historic buildings are important to the cultural fabric of any city

Take a stroll down the streets of any major city, and you’re bound to come across historic buildings. Some become tourist attractions in their own right, such as the Painted Ladies, the iconic Victorian and Edwardian homes that line the street across from Alamo Square in San Francisco, or the 19th-century tenement buildings on New York’s Lower East Side, which are now part of a museum that millions visit each year. Historic buildings are important to the cultural fabric of any city, and it’s not simply because they are aesthetically appealing, even though this is an important reason these buildings are worth preserving.

Architectural preservation holds value for cultural, historical, economic, and even environmental reasons

Architectural preservation holds value for cultural, historical, economic, and even environmental reasons, providing clear benefits to the city and the people who live and work there.

Amsterdam, Egypt, Athens, London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo – these are some of the most visited cities in the world, and it’s easy to see why.  These cities have deep historical roots that guide their cultural identity. The wonderment of the historic buildings and structures is noticeable and attracts millions of visitors per year.  The same feeling of awe that these cities have can be found in many major American cities as well.

The First Congregational Church is a downtown Portland landmark. Building of this Venetian Gothic church started in 1889 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The tracery in the bell tower was badly decayed in places and badly needed help. Versatile painstakingly salvaged what could be saved and seamlessly repaired what needed replacing.

Portland and much of the West coast has a uniquely storied history… if we insist on tearing down historic buildings because they don’t provide enough income we will lose our sense of cultural identity.  

Portland and much of the West coast has a uniquely storied history that can still be reflected today, but if we insist on tearing down historic buildings because they don’t provide enough income we will lose our sense of cultural identity.  The Northwest’s urban architectural beginnings date from the mid-1800s, and precious few of the structures built during that time are still left standing today. The oldest surviving structure in Portland, the Hallock-McMillan building, was built in 1857 and is now in the process of historic restoration.  Some notable Portland homes that were built in the 1800s have been successfully preserved, such as the Pittock Mansion, or the in-progress Morris Marks house.  Yet for each place saved, there have been even more places demolished, and there is much work to do.

2. Old buildings hold more economic value

In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs argues that businesses such as offices, coffee shops, restaurants, and others are attracted to older buildings, young people want to live in areas with old buildings, and that maintaining old buildings creates more jobs than building new ones. It is generally more expensive to revitalize an old brick façade, and it takes many more specialized construction positions to bring an old building back to life than to put up a cheaper new building. The need for specialized personnel, the influx of new businesses, and the increase of homes purchased in areas with older buildings means that for the owner it might not directly make them as much money to own and operate an old building, but it helps the local economy as a whole.

The PPAA building, built in 1908 as an unauthorized copy of the Voysey building in London, was occupied by the Portland Police Athletic Association for about 50 years. The space is now occupied by the Loyal Legion, with historically accurate windows and entry systems. This picture features a custom folding window assembly that allows for a full opening to create a maximum sense of space, while still retaining historic character.

3. It’s better for the environment to maintain and update an old building

It is considerably more environmentally friendly to maintain and update an old building than to tear it down and build a new one.  Adding insulation, wooden insulated windows, wooden doors, and a newer roof means that modern energy performance can be achieved while retaining the historic fabric of the building.  Wooden windows and doors insulate better and last much longer than the metal and vinyl windows commonly found in new buildings. Not only is repurposing old buildings intrinsically motivating, but it makes good environmental sense.

There are very clear environmental, economic, cultural, and historical reasons why we should preserve old buildings instead of demolishing them, and yet it feels like more historic buildings are under threat than ever before.  The boom of people to Portland is giving landowners reason to sell their property to make way for new apartment complexes. We need everyone’s help in spreading awareness if we’re going to help preserve our historic urban landscape. Supporting companies and organizations that advocate for historic preservation is a significant way to fight the demolition problem that we’re facing.  We at Versatile are proud to be a resource for historic preservation and supporters of Restore Oregon and the Architectural Heritage Center.

Do you have a project that could use the help of a team of experienced and dedicated experts? Commercial or residential, large or small, Versatile Wood Products is here to help. Contact us at or call 503-238-6403 to make an appointment to discuss your project, or just learn more.

5 Tips for Choosing Cabinetry

At Versatile Wood Products, we know how complex custom cabinetry design can be, and we are eager to help guide clients through the decision-making process. Versatile has inventive solutions to address all of your design challenges. Our experienced team specializes in balancing period-appropriate architectural design with modern performance standards. Utilizing Versatile’s expertise when will ensure you have maximized utility in custom cabinets that best fit the unique character of your home. 

Here are five important tips to consider when choosing cabinetry:

1.  Make Sure Your Cabinets Suit Your Home

Every house was built with specific style references. Whether your home is a Mid-Century Modern, Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor, Ranch, Dutch Colonial, or Queen Anne, each style has conventions that should not be ignored. Look at the details from every aspect of the house and consider how they can relate to your cabinetry. How open are the rooms? Is there crown or base molding? What does the exterior of the house look like? What style are your windows and doors? Looking at the overall aesthetic of your home is important when choosing the best cabinetry style and finish for your space.

2. Consider Proportions Carefully

As important as the details are, considering the proportions is even more crucial. You may make eclectic design choices for the style of cabinetry, but whatever you do, you must observe the proportions of the house. Each house adheres to a strict set of proportions which instantly tell a trained eye when the house was built. Deviating from these proportions will be immediately apparent to a design professional, and even untrained eyes can sense that something is off. Don’t put 36” upper cabinets into a kitchen with a low ceiling just because that’s the standard size the cabinets come in or butt new cabinets right up against the wall to cram in extra storage. The experts at Versatile will ensure that your new cabinetry fits perfectly into your existing space.

3. Think of Cabinetry As Furniture 

In Germany, it’s common practice to take your kitchen cabinetry and countertops with you when you move into a new home because they’re seen as furniture. People buy very high-end, long-lasting cabinetry and counters and keep them forever, passing them down for generations. At the turn of the 20th Century, it was very uncommon to see built-in cabinets or islands in a kitchen. Freestanding Hoosier-style cabinets and islands with ornate millwork details and legs were much more common. While modern American homeowners might prefer built-in cabinets, choosing high quality cabinets will still improve the overall beauty and longevity of your home.

4. Open Kitchens Are Overrated 

The enduring trend of open kitchens is much like the over-used open office plan: they’ve been used for far too long, and they don’t work for everyone. Many people who cook actually tend to prefer closed spaces, even if they aren’t fully aware of it. You don’t want guests to see the mess you’re making, the piled up dishes in the sink, how much butter you folded into that soup, the spots of tomato sauce on your kitchen floor, or your reliance on too many canned ingredients. Even restaurants with open kitchens often have hidden prep kitchens, and most restaurants don’t have the kitchen visible at all. There is a line between showmanship and comfort that needs to be observed, and intelligent cabinetry design will address this. Sacrificing storage and privacy to have an open kitchen often isn’t worth it. If you really desire an open feel, consider opting for open-front cabinetry with an interesting wallpaper or paint color to make the room feel as if it’s transitioning seamlessly into the walls, while also giving you a nice room accent and plenty of storage.

5.  Mid-Range Cabinetry Is a Waste of Money

Cabinetry is available in different grades from inexpensive modular stock cabinetry to semi-custom cabinetry to high-end fully custom cabinetry. IKEA and other economical pressboard cabinets can be a great choice for certain projects as they provide a range of options for configuration and finish while being very budget-friendly. The step up from that is semi-custom cabinetry. Semi-custom cabinets are essentially stock cabinets that have the option of changing certain dimensions and details. Semi-custom cabinets are made with economy-grade materials, but require time and budget for a designer to make sure the details are perfect, and this leads to a big expense for an end result that is not appreciably different from stock cabinets. Perhaps stock cabinets are suitable for your project, or perhaps full-custom cabinets are the way to go, but don’t mess around with the in-between.

Versatile Wood Products is here to bring your custom cabinetry designs to life. Whether you bring us ideas or a full set of plans, trust our skill and experience to make sure your cabinets are perfect. 

We invite you to come to our Design Week Portland event, Classic Cabinets: Modern Design

*NOTE* Date change: Aug. 05th, 2020 4:30pm-7pm

Versatile Wood Products Showroom


Special thanks to Anne De Wolf for sharing her insights with us for this article.

Cornelius Woodlark Project

After a 28 year hiatus, the historic Cornelius Hotel has finally opened once again with new owners, the newly conjoined Woodlark Building, and a new name – the Woodlark House of Welcome.
Merely five years ago the Cornelius Hotel was scheduled for demolition. The hotel, located in the heart of downtown Portland, was built in 1908, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Due in part to the economic crash of 2008 it was set to be destroyed but was saved when the building was sold for $2.1 million. That started the almost $70 million journey to restore the hotel to its former glory – with a uniquely interesting problem.

Next door to the Cornelius Hotel, opened in 1912, sits the Woodlark Building. Another historic structure, the Woodlark was set to be destroyed along with the Cornelius Hotel in 2013. The Woodlark Building was purchased for $6.9 million along with the Cornelius Hotel, and what followed is the painstaking difficulty of combining the two building into a brand-new hotel. The two conjoined buildings look completely different, and the floors don’t line up. These challenges along with a laundry list of others are responsible for the massive restoration bill.

Today, the recently opened Woodlark House of Welcome, not only has overcome these problems, but highlights them with tastefully and thoughtfully designed interiors. There are separate key cards and separate design themes matching the building’s separate exterior facades to help guests navigate the two buildings.

We had the pleasure to get to work on this project with the help of LCG Pence and local firm R&A Architecture + Design. We built a total of six entryway systems, 29 windows at the mezzanine level, and 25 windows at the basement clerestory level. The project took an estimated 2600 hours of total shop time and is one of the largest projects we’ve ever worked on.

Although this project started years ago, the re-opening of the historic hotel was one of our highlights from this past year, and we are well into our next historic hotel restoration – stay tuned!

Restoration Celebration: November 2nd

Restore Oregon is the distinguished nonprofit dedicated to preserving the most historic and meaningful structures from around the state. We were delighted to once again be the presenting sponsor for the annual fundraising gala, the Restoration Celebration.  The dinner and award ceremony are meant to honor and celebrate the work done over the past year, and to highlight the uphill battles that remain.

The event was held at the beautiful Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland and was headlined by the presentation of the 2018 DeMuro Awards, which are named after the historic real estate developer Art DeMuro. These prestigious awards are given to the outstanding rehabilitation projects from the previous year. Art DeMuro was the man responsible for many groundbreaking restorations that have helped shape Portland into the city it is today.  He served ten years on the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission and donated $2.8 million to the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation Program.  Sadly, he passed away in 2012 at the age of 57 after a battle with cancer. We were incredibly proud to be part of the Towne Storage project, which brought a DeMuro to LRS Architects and Bremik Construction. Versatile’s scope was done in 13 total phases and included 208 double hung windows, 2.4 tons of sash weights, 6000 square feet of insulated glass, and 1.2 miles of simulated divided lite bar for the windows alone!

Peggy Moretti, the Executive Director of Restore Oregon, gave an inspiring and moving presentation focusing on Oregon’s most endangered places, and spoke about the long road ahead to continue to preserve our architectural heritage.  A total of 47 places have already been saved since Restore Oregon’s inception of the Most Endangered Places Project in 2011, and everyone is excited about the work still to be done. The event culminated in raffle drawings and a thrilling paddle-raise auction. Over $120,000 were raised by the event!

Versatile is excited to partner in upcoming historic preservation efforts, and we look forward to saving more of Oregon’s historic places.

Whiskey and Windows: October 25th

The Versatile showroom’s Ingenuity display, featuring our new catalog. Do you have yours?

Thursday, October 25th will go down as Versatile’s best in-house event to date due in part to the buzz of important attendants and the interesting upcoming collaborative projects they bring to the table.  There was also a captivating presentation, as well as live music, and a great selection of domestic whiskey.

Whiskey and Windows, a longstanding and popular event, continues to be a great networking and learning event for everyone involved. It was a threefold opportunity to unveil the new Ingenuity catalog, introduce our Business Development Manager — Gary Paquin — to a wider audience of clients, and to connect with designers, architects, and building owners alike.  Over seventy guests came to enjoy the various whiskey cocktails, as well as tour the impressive 30,000 square foot shop, and see a window presentation outlining our mission statement, offering uniquely Versatile solutions.

Guests looking on as Richard starts the evening festivities

The evening kicked off with some ping pong, live music, a fully stocked whiskey bar, and a few words from Versatile’s owner, Richard De Wolf.  He talked about the newly implemented Ingenuity window line, and some of the reasons behind creating his own semi-custom windows, saying: “The challenge for us in creating a better window was to integrate historic aesthetics while implementing new standards and techniques that improve performance and durability.”  He then announced the release of the first ever Ingenuity product catalog, which is available for pickup now in the Versatile showroom, or on our website.

Erica Witbeck, the operations manager, then gave shop tours highlighting the shop’s impressive size, the diversity of products we’re able to produce, and Versatile’s state of the art wood-powered biomass boiler heating system, answering questions along the way.  Versatile’s shop tour also contains a stop at its very impressive custom knife collection consisting of around 500 knives, making it easily one of the largest collections for a shop of this size in the Northwest.  No wonder so many historic buildings turn to Versatile for their window, door, and cabinetry needs!

Erica Witbeck leading a shop tour through our Cabinetry shop—don’t forget about Versatile for your custom cabinetry needs!

The Versatile presentation conveyed an impressive list of rewarding large scale restoration projects including the DeMuro Award-winning Towne Storage building, several Timberline Lodge projects, The Old Church, The Zipper, and many more.  Gary showed a glimpse of how much experience Versatile Wood Products has in its industry, and just how knowledgeable and passionate the staff are about being trade experts and colleagues in the window, door, and cabinetry field.

Gary Paquin is ready to talk about your next project! Drop him a line at

As the evening wound to a close there was still plenty of mingling and drinking going on. More ping pong broke out (perhaps a bit more knockabout than before), and it became clear that the tight-knit community feel of the growing Portland construction industry was something to cherish.  Old friends and new connections coming together to share company and conversation over a glass of whiskey is an exceptional way to spend an evening.  Be sure to join us for the next Versatile event!

Sovereign Hotel Restoration Award

Beautiful Sovereign Hotel Restoration

Sovereign Hotel Renovation Team Celebrates Project of the Year Award
Members of the project team behind the Sovereign Hotel renovation, submitted by R&H Construction and Emerick Architects, celebrate the Project of the Year award. (Sam Tenney/DJC)

Versatile Wood Products is proud to stand alongside Emerick Architects and R&H Construction to win DJC Top Project of the Year Award for the restoration of the Sovereign Hotel! The DJC awards are:

“… the premier awards program for the region’s built environment. Honoring the best building and construction projects in Oregon
and SW Washington, DJC TopProjects is the must-attend annual event to meet the people and firms who are doing outstanding work in the regional built environment.”


Watch a beautiful video on the restoration of this 95-year-old luxury apartment hotel here:

A Brief History of the Sovereign Hotel

Since its construction the Sovereign Hotel has been an apartment building, radio station, and home to the Oregon Historical Society.

Sovereign Hotel

The landmark Sovereign Hotel was built in 1923. The nine-story building is a Georgian-style designed by Carl L. Linde. Its first occupants were KFWV radio in 1926 until 1927. In 1938, Harry Mittleman bought the Hotel; until 1972 it was known as the Sovereign Apartments. The Sovereign Hotel was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 1981. In 1982 the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) purchased the building to expand the Oregon History Center.

Sovereign Hotel

One of the most beloved aspects of the Hotel is the murals. The Hotel is an L-shaped building with six sides. On four of the sides, murals commissioned by OHS were painted in 1989 by Richard Hass. Two of these murals rise eight stories.  One side depicts the Lewis and Clark expedition, while the mural on the south side shows the pioneer period in Oregon’s history. In 2014 OHS sold the Hotel under the agreement that the new owner would preserve the murals.

Versatile and the Sovereign Hotel

For Versatile, the story started in August of 2015. Our team started exploring scope options with the team from Emerick to see what the possibilities were. Versatile’s historic building experts participated in detailed site assessments to help decide how to best approach the building restoration. We were able to propose an array of strategies to choose from.

Flash Forward to Spring of 2016:

While the window scope was being sorted out and set in motion, we next concentrated on the custom storefront and entryway system. The storefront was particularly challenging. This was because the oversized tempered glass required was larger than any domestic tempering oven that we could locate. The glass ultimately had to be sourced from Canada.

The storefront was constructed out of Sapele. This beautiful material is often selected for stain-grade products because of its rich, dark appearance. Versatile will also utilize it for paint-grade applications when high exposure calls for greater resistance to weathering and decay. The entry system, consisting of quartersawn white oak door, side panels, and arched transom, were designed to coordinate with original materials and details.

We Rose to a New Technical Challenge with the Arched Transom Unit:

For maximum accuracy, we looked to our state-of-the-art CNC machine to produce the radiused pieces. The geometric precision on some of the slender pieces was so accurate and consistent, we have since adapted our production to incorporate this strategy. This is a perfect example of how Versatile strives to bring new technologies together with traditional building methods to create the best products possible.

Additional interior and exterior oak doors were added in succession, as well as some cabinet drawers and faces (yes, we do that too!). All in all, we had 13 phases to this project, finally concluding in August of 2017.

Check Out our Photos

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign plans and arched pieces

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign arched transom in progress

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign Arched Transom Gluing

Sovereign Hotel
Chuck from R&H Construction stands in front of the Sovereign door and arched transom